About this paper

Appears in:
Pages: 2696-2703
Publication year: 2013
ISBN: 978-84-616-2661-8
ISSN: 2340-1079

Conference name: 7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 4-5 March, 2013
Location: Valencia, Spain

ACCIDENTAL FRIENDSHIPS: THE DEVELOPMENT AND SIGNIFICANCE OF FRIENDSHIP IN LATER LIFE IN A LIFELONG LEARNING PROGRAM

M. Cheang

University of Hawaii at Manoa (UNITED STATES)
Gains from lifelong learning experiences among older adults have been documented over the past decades. Among some of these gains are: 1) How the lifelong learning programs enable older adults to engage in intellectual pursuits that were not possible before during career, parenting, and family building years; 2) How learning may be experienced in non-credit, non-threatening ways among other older adults with similar interests; 3) How continuing engagement in learning helps to improve memory and keep the mind sharp, and; 4) How the learning experiences enable the older adult to be part of a social network of individuals.

This session will report the findings of a qualitative study of how relationships among members of a university-based lifelong learning class developed over seven years. A description will be given on how a group of older adults (mean age = 72 years) participating in a lifelong learning class progressed from being unfamiliar individuals in a classroom to becoming acquaintances, friends, close friends, and for some, becoming confidants.

The development of friendships during multiple meetings over time is not surprising. However, the significance of the development, and the increasing quality, of friendships in later life may be overlooked in the context of how many older adults are widowed, single, or living alone. One landmark study, The Australian Longitudinal Study of Aging, found that: 1) Close relationships with children and relatives had little effect on longevity rates for older people during the 10-year study; while 2) People with extensive networks of good friends and confidants outlived those with the fewest friends by 22 percent; and 3) The positive effects of friendships on longevity continued throughout the decade, regardless of other profound life changes such as the death of a spouse or other close family members.

Using a participant observation approach, this study examined the accidental role that a lifelong learning class has played in fostering friendships in later life, and in making the lifelong learning class a third place—besides the home and the workplace—where important relationships develop.

This session will:
1. Describe the concept of “the third place.”
2. Differentiate between the concept of “social network” from that of “social support.”
3. Discuss the significance of friendship in later life.
4. Suggest the significant role(s) that lifelong learning programs can play in creating third places for its members.

References:
National Institute on Aging. (2004). Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging. Maryland: National Institutes of Health.
www.grc.nia.nih.gov/branches/blsa/blsa.htm

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2004). Longitudinal studies of ageing:
Implications for future studies. Canberra, Australia
@InProceedings{CHEANG2013ACC,
author = {Cheang, M.},
title = {ACCIDENTAL FRIENDSHIPS: THE DEVELOPMENT AND SIGNIFICANCE OF FRIENDSHIP IN LATER LIFE IN A LIFELONG LEARNING PROGRAM},
series = {7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference},
booktitle = {INTED2013 Proceedings},
isbn = {978-84-616-2661-8},
issn = {2340-1079},
publisher = {IATED},
location = {Valencia, Spain},
month = {4-5 March, 2013},
year = {2013},
pages = {2696-2703}}
TY - CONF
AU - M. Cheang
TI - ACCIDENTAL FRIENDSHIPS: THE DEVELOPMENT AND SIGNIFICANCE OF FRIENDSHIP IN LATER LIFE IN A LIFELONG LEARNING PROGRAM
SN - 978-84-616-2661-8/2340-1079
PY - 2013
Y1 - 4-5 March, 2013
CI - Valencia, Spain
JO - 7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
JA - INTED2013 Proceedings
SP - 2696
EP - 2703
ER -
M. Cheang (2013) ACCIDENTAL FRIENDSHIPS: THE DEVELOPMENT AND SIGNIFICANCE OF FRIENDSHIP IN LATER LIFE IN A LIFELONG LEARNING PROGRAM, INTED2013 Proceedings, pp. 2696-2703.
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